What is a Reading Model? - Definition & Overview

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Using the Top-Down or Whole Language Approach to Reading Instruction

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is A Reading Model?
  • 0:41 Types Of Reading Models
  • 3:34 Reading Models In The…
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

What are reading models and how do they fit into classroom instruction? This lesson outlines the three major types of reading models and shows how each work.

What Is a Reading Model?

Cindy remembers when she was in early elementary school and taught to read. They did a lot of worksheets and focused on phonics; kids in her class seemed to do fine with this type of instruction. Now her daughter, Kayla, is in primary school, and there is a different focus, more on thinking during reading and everyone working on their own level. Cindy wants to know why they changed things up when the old way worked just fine.

During a parent-teacher conference, Ms. Dobbs, Kayla's teacher, explains that there are several reading models, or ways educators instruct and teach reading. Each is based on a belief or philosophy on how children learn to read.

Types of Reading Models

Ms. Dobbs goes on to explain that the different types of reading models can all be classified into one of three categories: top down, bottom-up, and interactive.

Top down

The top down reading model is based on the philosophy that the brain and reader are at the center of understanding and succeeding. This method argues that readers bring an understanding to the print, not print to the reader. In other words, the experiences a reader has help him or her to read, decode, and make sense of text. Top-down models ask readers to construct meaning from text; this knowledge is made from the whole (text) to the part (words). This model does not focus on phonics and decoding, but instead, allows children opportunities to read 'real' books and make sense of them. Finally, the top-down method utilizes making sense of grammar and text clues to figure out unknown words.

In other words, Ms. Dobbs explains, the focus in a top down model is not on phonics instruction but rather on getting students to read complete sentences, paragraphs, and books. This model relies on children mastering skills through experience. The whole language approach, where learners are taught to identify entire words rather than combinations of sounds, is an example of a top down model.

Bottom Up

A different approach is the bottom up method. Bottom up focuses on direct instruction of phonics, such as identifying features of letters, like curves and straight lines, to recognize them. From there students will begin combining letters to read and write words. They then become familiar with spelling patterns and learn to read sentences, paragraphs and longer texts.

The bottom up model uses phonics as its core, believing readers first process and understand sounds in speech and move on to understand letters, then words, then longer sentences. Eventually, they build comprehension skills as they grow as readers. Cindy recognizes this model from her days as a student.

Interactive Model

The interactive model combines features of both other models - students interact with both phonics and text. Teachers using the interactive model use both instruction methods relying on phonics and a student's experiences with text, believing that each is necessary for understanding. In classrooms using the interactive model, students receive direct instruction on the sound/symbol relationships in phonics alongside instruction in comprehension and reading strategies.

Ms. Dobbs explains that most schools today use the interactive method and that Kayla, as an emerging reader, is being taught both how to read and how to make sense of what she reads. By learning both skills side-by-side, Kayla makes connections between her sounds, letters, words and books. This way she learns to love reading and can build confidence as she grows.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account